Fifty Shades in Hospital

One of my two dads, Papa Le Bike (so, the one who taught me to ride a bike), was in hospital in April and I dashed back to the UK to see him. Despite sounding like he was on death’s door over the phone, when I turned up he was surprisingly cheerful. I spent the next two days visiting him in hospital and I noticed he had the literary classic “Fifty Shades of Grey” on his bedside table. I asked him who had given him that to read and he said a nurse had. Could this be the latest NHS way of perking patients up? He said he’d flicked through it but it didn’t grab his interest so he was leaving it for the next patient to stay in the bed he was in. He slipped it up on the little shelf behind the bed, next to the bible.

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I like to imagine the next patient being a devout Christian, reaching up to the shelf to get the bible and instead grabbing Fifty Shades of Grey, opening it up for a calming dose of spirituality and morality and instead getting a hit of Christian Grey shoving lychees up Anastasia’s bottom.

The next day, at Luton airport on my way back to France, I noticed the Daily Mirror front page …

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Needless to say, I didn’t send this to Papa Le Bike. In any case, he survived his stay in hospital and went home a couple of days later. Without his copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Padded bras for kids.

Ahem. I fear I have become a little dull. Writing about insects and home renovation. In the list of Topics To Avoid Like The Plague When Writing A Blog, these are numbers 3 and 4 (numbers 1 and 2 are personal hygiene problems and favourite cleaning products).

Well today I’m writing about a subject that involves sex, which is always a good crowd puller, although today I wish my subject wasn’t about sex. But it is. Yet it shouldn’t be.

Whilst searching for slippers in the childrens’ section of Monoprix I found myself in front of a whole range of padded bras. Nothing strange there. Well, it is a bit strange when you realise that nowadays padded bras outnumber the non-padded ones by about five to one, but anyway, that’s not the point. The very disturbing thing about these rows of padded bras were they were in the children’s section. Not by accident. On purpose. They are for little girls. We’re talking TEN YEAR OLDS and upwards.

Mothers of ten year olds may be thinking I’m very naive and that yeah, these padded bras for children are everywhere and have been everywhere for ages. Or maybe they’re just rife in France. I have no idea. All I know is that I find the concept of making little girls’ breasts look a lot bigger is creepy and perverted. TEN YEAR OLDS. Even 12 year olds, 13, 14 year olds… what does it mean when underwear manufacturers are selling “bigger boobs bras” to such young girls?

Oh but I am naive. I’m totally out of touch. It’s nothing, just sexualising kids in yet another way, the way everything is sexualised nowadays. I should lighten up. I mean I don’t have to buy those bras for my little girl, do I? But that’s not the point. The point is that someone, somewhere, thought they could make some money by selling bras for children who don’t need bras and then adding a ton of padding so that those children look like they do need bras. Why balloon our little girls’ breasts? To make them look like women, to make them sexually attractive. Bloody hell, it’s already hard enough when you’re 18 to fight off men’s stares, wolf-whistles, and hands, imagine a ten year old having to deal with all that.

We don’t sell cod-pieces to little boys. We don’t sell special padded-pants to make them look like they have large willies ready for adult action. We don’t glue fake stubble on their faces.

I read an article in the Guardian the other day (which I can’t find now of course) about people who like having sex with much younger partners. This was written following the whole Jimmy Savile scandal which still makes me feel sick to the stomach. The writer was saying that it’s about power, not sex. The older partner is interested in the power he/she gets to wield over someone so much younger, less-experienced, less sure of themselves. This in turn indicates the older partner is actually hugely lacking in self-confidence and is searching to feel powerful by having much younger sexual partners. Yup, that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is how this ‘preference’ has permeated our society. The “ideal body” resembles a 16 year old body, not a 36 year old one.

Most young girls now grow up thinking their worth is largely built on their sex appeal. Ten and eleven year olds trying to be women as fast as possible will love those padded bras. I can just see their mothers trying to dissuade them. I can see the little girls happily carrying their new padded bra back home and trying it on, coming downstairs with their new boobs, Mum and Dad choking on their tea, looking at each other in panic, wondering how on earth to deal with the situation. Try telling an eleven year old that her boobs will grow in time, that she doesn’t need a padded bra at her age, that having boobs doesn’t matter – the rest of the world is telling her it does.

(NB: I have chosen the title on purpose because I bet some parents/kids are actually using those words as a search term. Maybe, just maybe they’ll read my post and MIGHT spend 20 seconds thinking about it. Or maybe not. Any comments on this topic are more than welcome. Léonie is only just coming up to 2, so I’ve got a few years to think about this one…)

Tomboy Tomgirl

When I was ten and soon to be going to big school, I was faced with a dilemma.

Skirts.

Back in 1983 at Ousedale Comprehensive, girls were not allowed to wear trousers. I hadn’t worn a skirt since the age of five when I got to choose what I wore every morning, and every morning I chose trousers, jeans, shorts, tracky bottoms, but NEVER a skirt or a dress. I was a self-defined tomboy. I had short, scruffy hair, ran circles around the lads when it came to tree-climbing and riding bikes down hills, could burp on command and never backed down when challenged. I rarely got into physical fights though, I used to fight-talk instead and leave them wondering what had hit them. People mistook me for a boy all the time and called me ‘lad’ and ‘sonny’. Sometimes I let them believe I was a boy, if the situation suited me, but often I corrected them, proudly stating “I’m a girl, actually” and grinning at them. I thought I had the best of both worlds – the brains of a girl and the brawn of a boy, albeit a small, scrawny sort of brawn as I was tiny and wirey. I knew what I wanted and was bolshy enough to get it. I hung out with the girls and the boys at school, although I was never interested in the whole football malarky, which is probably why the girls’ company suited me too. Everyone accepted me as I was. The tomboy girl in jeans.

And then, in the Easter break, my step-dad sat me down and told me I was going to have to start wearing skirts as it was my last term in primary school, and after summer I would be in big school where skirts were compulsory. So maybe I should get used to wearing them now rather than in September, as I would probably have enough big changes to deal with then, without the extra odd feeling of breeze on my legs to get used to. He used bribery. I wanted a pair of white leather slip-on shoes like the other girls in the school (I hadn’t rejected all girls’ things, just skirts), so he promised to buy me a pair IF I wore them to school with a skirt.

I remember that first skirt. It was knee-length, different shades of beige and brown, made of material that looked a bit like sacking. I think I had accepted Dad’s bargain but had chosen a skirt that was as rough’n’tough looking as possible. But I still felt very uncomfortable in it. My legs felt too vulnerable; every movement I made meant my skin felt the air brushing against it. I walked to school feeling totally naked. I thought everyone was staring at me, staring at my legs. No-one was of course, until I got to school, and then all hell broke loose. “WOOOOAAAAHHH!! BULLETT’S GOT LEGS!!” (Bullett being my step-dad’s surname and my nickname) “LOOK AT HER! LOOK AT THOSE PINS! NICE LEGS BULLETT!!” The boys ran riot. It wasn’t anything to do with fancying my legs – when I was ten they were stick thin and utterly shapeless – it was just the sheer pleasure of pointing out that I was indeed a girl, a ‘normal’ girl, and despite having spent years being a total tomboy, I was now having to conform to what girls look like. I hated it of course, I hated the attention my legs were getting, I hated everyone pointing out that I had “changed” but I stuck to my guns (no pun intended but it might be why the name Bullett fit so well) and walked right past them on my skinny stick legs, determined to ignore it all and continue being just as much a tomboy as I ever was. Which isn’t so easy when wearing a skirt, or at least, is wasn’t for me back then.

I did continue being a tomboy. And as soon as I got home every afternoon I changed back into my jeans. But I didn’t mind wearing skirts any more. And my dad was right; in September when I started at Ousedale Comprehensive, it was one weight off my mind and off my legs. And a year later, when my body had totally metamorphosized over the summer, from stick insect to Flake advert curvaciousness, I went up into 3rd grade wearing a mini miniskirt, having discovered the joys of attracting boys.

But I remained a tomboy, despite looking very much like a Guns’n’Roses groupie. I still scrambled up trees and messed about in the river and stood up to the big boys teasing my little brother and never backed down when challenged. I realised it isn’t anything to do with what you wear. And then I realised it isn’t anything to do with “boyishness” or “girlishness”. It’s about confidence and being assertive and not complying to stereotypes of what girls are like and what boys are like.

I think I mostly have my Mum to thank for that attitude. She taught me some fine lessons. She told dirty jokes and swore like a sailor and said she’d rather I had my first sexual experiences in my bedroom rather than in some muddy field somewhere. She trusted me, gave me a lot of freedom and taught me to follow my intuition. She was a fantastic flautist, pianist and music teacher. She had a great mind and went back to studying when she was in her fifties, doing a couple of A-levels, a degree and becoming a magistrate. When my parents held dinner parties she would have everyone laughing. She flirted like a pro. I was proud of having a mum like mine.

So this is partly to say thank you to my mum for raising me the way she did. For encouraging the tomboy-tomgirl in me. For being a tomboy-tomgirl herself.

This morning she was carried back off to hospital. She only came out a month or so ago. She is suffering from what they think is anxiety disorder. For years she was diagnosed as bipolar, but she doesn’t go “up” anymore. I have tried everything to get through to her, so has my Dad, so has everyone. But nothing is helping her and now I am frightened we will lose her. We already have lost her in a way, but every now and again I see glimmers of the old Mum and I do wish she would come back.

Mum Bullett, dig deep down and find that feisty bit of you that never gave up. You can do it. Otherwise I’m coming to get you and chucking you in a plane to France. I’m the one wearing the trousers nowadays. But I think you need to wear them too.

Mum Bullett.

Onion head

Having gone for the chop in March and then re-chopped in May, July, and September, I have decided that I am bored with my short hair. So, off I embark on a long, embarrasing journey of hair-growing. This will of course mean going through various stages of very dodgy haircuts,

At the moment I resemble an onion.  Or a Beatle. The Paul McCartney type.


L’Homme thinks I look more like a mushroom.

If I blow dry my hair I look like Princess Diana.

I would rather look like an onion or a mushroom than Princess Diana.

Soon my hair will grow a few inches and I will look like Purdey.

(now, she really does look like a mushroom).

And then I’ll be more of a George Harrison Beatle.

And then a Stone. A Rolling One.

But at the moment it is definitely an onion look. When I said this to a couple of my friends the other day, the male one of the two cracked up. I thought it was because I had made an absolutely spot-on judgement concerning my haircut and the vegetable it is best at imitating, but no. It turns out that in French “onion” means “vagina”. It took me a few minutes to understand why. I ran through a few theories in my head. Do French fannies smell of onions? Are onions used for curing venereal diseases? Do most French men cry when they have sex?  (Not the ones I’ve met … maybe I’m doing something wrong. Or right). Is it to do with peeling bits back? Or off? OW. I frowned at my friend questioningly. He grinned and mimed chopping an onion in half and then outlined the pointy-at-both-ends curvy oval form of the layers. Oh. I see. So we could also say that “almond” or “eye” or “certain Christmas decorations” are also nicknames for vagina. In any case, with this context in mind, he finds it very funny that I think I look like an onion.

Coincidentally, that same evening I read Chapter 3 (“I Don’t Know What To Call My Breasts!”) of Caitlin Moran’s new book “How To Be A Woman”. Sister One sent me the book for my birthday and when I read the title I thought “right, so she thinks I’m STILL not a woman, I’m STILL a hardcore tomboy, despite going through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, a reputation for wearing miniskirts too short to be seen with the naked eye, inventing my own 2-second t-shirt folding technique and wearing rubber gloves on a daily basis.” But when I started reading it I realised that Caitlin Moran is also a hardcore tomboy and that in fact, the term Hardcore Tomboy roughly translates as Strident Feminist. Caitlin may well throw this theory to the ground and mud-wrestle it until it croaks its final splutter, but I think I might have a thing going here – one I need to develop further when I don’t have aubergines burning in the wok. Anyway, Chapter 3 talks about what we call our bits. Our breasts and vaginas. Or rather, what a strange range of words are used by various men, women and wierdos to refer to their bits. Caitlin covers most of them, from Flower to Hole to Minge to La-la to Tinkle to Bush to Honeypot to Flaps to Cunt to Newport Pagnell Service Station (erm, that last one isn’t in her book). It is fascinating, at least to those of us even vaguely interested in fanny etymology. And of course, here in France there is a whole new range of names. “La Chatte”, for a female cat, is the equivalent of our rather soft, yet stale, porn-film-generated ‘pussy’, and in French is quite vulgar, or so L’Homme tells me. “Foufoune” sounds like fanny and is the word children use to refer to their front bottom. So do I actually, probably because I have learnt a lot of my French vocabulary along with my kids. I quite like “touffe” – although it sounds like toffee, NOT a good thing to put down your pants. But “onion”?! I simply cannot imagine ANY Frenchwoman saying “I must get my onion looked at by my gynaecologist”, or “I shouldn’t have waxed my onion just before going swimming”. Oh, of course – the women don’t use this word at all – it’s the men who do.

In this context, my unfortunate hairstyle, which I have taken to referring to as “onion head” or “tête d’oignon”, may well, to French ears, sound like a sexual technique. This is not what I want to imply. I simply think I look like a common or garden onion. Not a look to boast about, I know, but it’s quite a liberating feeling to go out into the big wide world looking slightly ridiculous and not being able to do anything about it. You just accept it and get on with things. And a lot less lorry drivers ogle at you. Or at your onion.

(Footnote : the French can’t believe we use the word “Fanny” to refer to their “foufoune”. There are about  a thousand new little baby Fannys born each year in France.)

Sexy breastfeeding bras

The other day, I was having tea with my friend Sandrine, who had her baby boy a month after I had Léonie. Just as we sat down with our steaming cups and fiddley pancakes (just when you really need two hands to eat something…) both babies woke up and wanted feeding. Plop, out popped one milk-laden breast, boing, out popped another, lighter-skinned English one. Two little mouths latched onto their respective booby and for fifteen minutes or so the two babies were in warm, milky paradise. This gave us time to juggle a bit of pancake into our mouths and to check out each others’ breasts. Pretty much the same size and roundness, we agreed. But mine were enveloped in a simple, white, boring, cotton affair, whearas Sandrine’s “balcony” (I got that from the French) was framed in pretty lace with strappy straps, a low-cut, hello-boys number which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Moulin Rouge striptease. I stared at her cleavage. “A sexy breastfeeding bra?!” She smiled and replied, “yes, I know, I decided to treat myself. They cost a bomb but they’re pretty AND comfortable… and they help me to feel sexy again.” What a concept. Feeling sexy just 3 weeks after giving birth. Why? I thought. Surely she must be too exhausted? And her birth experience was a rough, ripping one, she couldn’t even walk for a week afterwards. How did she manage to even think about having sex so soon afterwards? And then I realised there’s a difference between having sex and feeling sexy. And I suddenly wanted to feel sexy too. So I got the name of the website and the next morning ordered 2 bras, a sort of camisole and a pair of knickers (to match one of the bras – I thought I might feel doubly sexy with a whole silky underwear outfit on, plus it was the sales, which makes it so much easier to go click, click, click, validate order, type in credit card number, click, wahaay!)

My goodies arrived two days later and I greedily ripped the parcel open and adorned myself in silk and lace, standing in front of our bathroom mirror to see just how sexy I looked. Well, they do a pretty good job, it has to be said. The knickers are really well cut, the camisole is very flattering and practical too, with little magnets replacing the little fiddly catches that allow you to pop a boob out, and the bras boost your breasts up, up, up and away. They’re all very pretty. So pretty in fact, that I couldn’t wait to breastfeed in public, flashing my upstairs-undies at all and sundry.

The next day I tried my “nude” bra out. “Nude” because you can supposedly wear a white t-shirt and no-one will guess you’ve got a bra on underneath… they forget the fact that your bra will be loaded with breastpads to catch the milk that flows out every time you think of your baby, which means people can see you’re wearing a bra a mile off. But never mind. I was feeling quite good about my new buy, about my new daring, racy outlook on life as a breastfeeding mummy, about my decision to feel “like a woman”, as the blurb stated (although when breastfeeding it’s very difficult to forget you’re a woman anyway – I wonder what they mean by that), and then I bent over to pick Léonie up and … POW! … PING! … my boobs popped out of the top of the very-low-cut bra, projected at high-speed by the high-tech underwiring system. Whoops. I squeezed them back in and readjusted the pads, lay Léonie down on her changing mat and … POP! … PAWOW! … out they popped again. I changed her nappy and threw the dirty one in the bin, missed, bent over to pick it up and … PAPOOM! … PA-TWING! … boobs ahoy. I lay Léonie down on her playmat on the living room floor … BOING! … BADOING!! … freedom! I realised the postman was out the front parping on his horn, so I ran downstairs and through the garden, took his clipboard and pen to sign for a parcel, bent over to lean on the post van window … BAJINGO!! … BABOOOM! … hello Mr. Postman! Hmm. I piled my now well-aired breasts back into what was supposed to be holding them and wondered if there might be a slight design fault somewhere. In wanting to create sexy breastfeeding bras they had cut daringly low, as if you would be wearing an evening gown over the top and tottering about all day eating canapés served to you by young Brazilian waiters, thus remaining stiffly vertical. They had forgotten that as a mummy you spend most of your day leaning over, bending down, picking up, putting down, in an eternal, maternal, horizontally-pulled disco jive.

I have sent one bra back but am keeping the other one as I remember that milk-laden breasts become a little less full around the 4 month mark. I continue to wear the pretty camisole as that does its job. The silky knickers too. But now I’m telling you what I wear as underwear, which means my blog is verging on the titillatingly erotic and could end up being listed in the porn pages. I was even going to take a photo but I think I shall decline. Especially seeing as most of my family members will be reading this in the next 48 hours. Just imagine the plain, cotton, practical bras and suckling babies latched on and your horns should stop parping illico presto.

Itchy bits.

Last night our friends, Doctor Power and Docter Gandamou, came over for dinner with their three children. The family is an example of elegance and beauty. Doc Power is tall, blonde and stunning, Doc G has dark eyes and a sexy smile. The two older children are either total geniuses in all school subjects and/or experts in Michael Jackson moves. They’re all chic, well-dressed and graceful. And then there’s the little one, Marie.

Marie is three and a half years old and defies all pressure to look, talk and behave as is expected of a little curly-haired girl. In fact, she farts in the face of all social pressures. She has the voice and belly of a builder nourished on chip butties. If her mother didn’t stop Marie from eating she’d just keep going until she exploded. She has bulldozer energy, flattening anything in her path. Our little Tommy stood no chance when he first met Marie; she dragged him into her bedroom by the arm and dragged him out five minutes later, shouting to me that he was crying. He clammed up after that first encounter but is now getting better at dealing with having toys ripped out of his hands and being bellowed at in his earhole; he gives Marie the same treatment nowadays and the pair of them even managed to have a bath together last night. Marie was very proud to wear a pair of Tommy’s (future) pyjamas (he’s too small for them at the moment) but discovered that there was a downside …

The kids had eaten and were busy transforming our bedroom into the toy equivalent of a war zone. Tommy had somehow managed to get hold of my phone and was chatting away to the guinea pig on the screen who was chattering back, much to the amusement of the two older children. He was clearly scoring points on the respect-ometer. Marie was sitting in the kitchen with us, quietly watching Toy Story while we ate our long-awaited roast chicken and shouted above the noise of the hilarity next door to make ourselves heard. Then Marie piped up.

“Ca me gratte la bite!” she yelled. She had her hand down the front of her pyjama trousers and was scratching away furiously. “CA ME GRATTE LA BITE!”.

Pause here for a translation : “Ca me gratte la bite” = “I’VE GOT AN ITCHY DICK.”

We all burst into laughter. L’Homme choked on a mouthful of food and swallowed his chicken leg by accident. I fell off my chair. Doctor Power said “Mais tu n’as pas de bite!” (“but you don’t have a dick!”), to which Marie replied “CA ME GRATTE LA BITE!” and kept scratching, gurning as she itched. Her parents laughed helplessly, my tummy muscles seized up, L’Homme had tears running down his face and had to run to the bathroom.

Where Marie picked up the phrase “Ca me gratte la bite” is incomprehensible. Her family don’t talk like that, I doubt her teachers do, and her three year-old schoolmates probably don’t even know what a “bite” is. Maybe it’s something to do with her builder tendencies – maybe she has a builder’s vocabulary innately programmed into her brain.

Whatever it is that gives Marie the capacity to stand out from the crowd in pretty much all situations, I salute her for it. She is hilarious. She’s also extremely touching and endearing. A true clown and a pure feminist. I doubt very much that she’ll worry about having the right shaped eyebrows and the latest season’s footwear and she will be oh so much freer for it. Long may she continue to rock the boat and to remind us that just because you’re a girl, it doesn’t mean you have to be girly.

Boobies.

Hmmm … I knew it. Writing about willies has boosted my reader numbers. Which is why I’ve named this entry “boobies”. It’s an experiment. I predict that I’ll get over a hundred readers tomorrow just because of the word boobies. And it is indeed a funny word. I know grown men who will laugh themselves to tears over the word boobies, although for me it has become an everyday reference, as I have to tell nearly three-year old Tommy daily to get off my boobies – to which he replies “No Mummy! MY boobies!” That’s another thing about having a little boy – they remain attached to your bosom way past the breast-feeding phase. Little girls seem to let go easily but little boys fancy a fondle whenever they can get one.

You may think, from reading yesterday’s and today’s entries, that I have a strangely erotic relationship with my nearly-three-year-old. Nope. There’s nothing erotic whatosoever about a little boy shoving his chubby hand down your top and pinching you to death, not to mention those spiky little nails that seem to grow at a rate of knots, scratching your skin so that you shout “OW” a little too loudly and end up with tears all round. And there’s certainly nothing erotic about a session of décalotage (see yesterday’s entry) – quite the opposite. So put all that out of your sick little minds and concentrate on the point of this evening’s babble : BOOBIES. A word all mummies use to refer to their breasts. A children’s word. A ridiculous word. A word which sucks all sensuality out of breasts and replaces it with silliness. A word which should be the name of a clown in some family circus show, and probably is; hang on, let me quickly google “Boobie the clown” … pause for googling … oh, much to my surprise there isn’t one, just a load of Bobby the clowns – however, it’s just reminded me that”booby” is actually another word for clown. Fascinating. If you’re still reading , bare with me – I’ve drunk two glasses of champagne and two glasses of red.

I have just discovered that a booby is a bird. There are red-footed boobies, brown footed boobies and blue-footed boobies. Booby birds are powerful and agile fliers but they are clumsy in take-offs and landings. They are, however, spectacular divers. Hmmm. Like the common or garden human booby. Defying gravity is a lifetime ambition but in general our boobies tend to dive after a certain number of years and/or a certain number of children. I have a friend who’s boobies have ended up around her waist, and another whose second breastfed baby experience mysteriously re-pumped her breasts to Elle Mcpherson horizontality. I am counting on the latter where my future second child is involved.

Another thing about boobies and breastfeeding – after 18 months of a baby drinking milk from mine has left me with a funny feeling where fully grown men are concerned. It all just seems very odd nowadays. And ticklish too. Thank goodness L’Homme doesn’t ever read my blog, as if he did (and if he took the time to decipher ths strange language), he would be mortified that I was writing such a thing. So don’t translate this for him. Or actually, DO – that way he might take a vague interest in my writing. Sex, scandal, boobies = surefire subjects to get readers and one’s bloke to open their eyes.

A red-footed booby chick :



Décalotage

I sometimes wonder what Mother Nature was up to when it came to willies? She must have either been drunk or suffering from really bad morning sickness when she drew up plans for The Willy. I should actually say The Scrotum, as all the bits involved suffer from the same design faults; they look wierd, they dangle about outside of the body prey to all sorts of predators (tennis balls, angry neighbours, dumped girlfriends), they get all sweaty and itchy squished down there between the legs and they don’t actually look very sexy when in dangling mode, which is ironic as their function is to reproduce the human race. What? Why? Who? How? It is a mystery. And at the moment I’m finding the whole thing even more incomprehensible as I, mother of a nearly-three year old, am responsable for the décalotage of my son. This word doesn’t exist in English, which makes me think that it just isn’t done in England, which in turn makes me think that maybe it isn’t necessary. Like bidets. The French have to give themselves a thorough scrub-down, the Brits just fall asleep all squidgy. Who’s right, who’s wrong? But back to the subject of this entry …

So what does it mean, décaloter ?

It means – and this is my very own homemade dictionary meaning – “to push back the foreskin of the penis to reveal the bulbous head (the glans, in technical terms)”. It sounds utterly barbaric and downright wierd in the context of a toddler. The first time our French pediatrician asked me if I had started to décaloter Tommy I thought she was going on about about teaching him how to count. She wasn’t. I looked at her blankly. She explained so fast I didn’t catch the willy-unsticking technique and certainly wasn’t going to ask her to demonstrate on Tommy. “Sinon c’est une opération” she snapped. “Ca va coincer – it will get stuck, an infection will set in and he’ll have to be operated on.”

“You mean … ?”

“Oui – la circoncision.” She frowned a scary hairy eyebrow frown and handed me a prescription with the name of a special un-sticking willy cream for little boys, marked in illegible writing. Tommy was a little over two and a half years old. I googled décaloter and discovered that here in France it’s the done thing. In the bath, or just afterwards, everyday, from the age of one year old.

So how come I’d never heard of this before? How come I don’t have a single memory of either of my younger brothers having their foreskin slipped back on a daily basis? I’m sure they never had any problems. Curiouser and curiouser. I asked a couple of my French friends who have little boys. I may as well have asked them if you’re meant to keep milk in the fridge. “Mais bien sur il faut le décaloter!” Apparently little boys with stuck willies are rife and the operation to remedy the problem is, as can be expected, very painful.

So I tried. Very gently. After the bath. And it was one of the strangest things I have ever done. And not easy on a little soft willy to get the “glans” to pop out. I wasn’t at all comfortable with that sort of intimate manhandling of my little boy’s jiggly bits but I explained what was going on and how it was important and how I would be very gentle. Tommy seemed to understand but kept reminding me “gently, gently Mummy”, so I assume it was not a totally stressfree experience for him. I’m not so sure about doing that every single day though. Do we practise décalotage in the UK? I’m sure we don’t. And I don’t remember there being an inordinate number of circumcised British chaps running about in the UK. So why do it in France? An obsession with hygiene? With control? With efficiency? Why attack those little willies? Surely this should all happen quite naturally without us having to help things on their way?

Then again, when I think of how the rest of the male genitalia are badly organised, I start to wonder whether this isn’t yet another design hiccup.

This is a genuine request : could those of you with any experience whatsoever in this subject please let me know what you think. And Sisters One and Two, I know you already think I’m the most barbaric Wicked Witch of the West for slipping little suppositories up Tommy’s bum when he’s got a fever, but this is different. In my humble opinion I’m not at all convinced this décalotage malarky is worth continuing whereas suppositories are the bees knees when you have a feverish toddler fighting you to death’s door when you try to get him to take a spoonful of Calpol and thus raising his tempertaure even further. As L’Homme says: “hop! – la petite fusée va dans la lune”. I shall let you translate that for yourselves.